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October 24, 2012
Since 1999 - Bob Stoops’ first year at Oklahoma - the Sooners have played 83 home games. They’ve won 79 of those games, including a 31-14 victory over No. 1 Nebraska in 2000, a 14-1 record against ranked opponents, and a 39-game winning streak from 2005 to 2011.
Consider No. 5 Notre Dame, which will try to add its name to a short list of opponents - Oklahoma State in 2001, TCU in 2005, Texas Tech in 2011 and Kansas State in 2012 - that have defeated the Sooners on their home grass. The Irish have lost 31 times in Notre Dame Stadium (with 56 victories, including one over Stoops in his first year) since Stoops took over in Norman in 1999.
“That’s where we want to be,” said Irish head coach Brian Kelly, who takes his 7-0 squad into Norman this weekend. “We want that consistency. Year-in and year-out, you know that Oklahoma is going to be part of the conversation, and that’s where we want to get our football program.
“We’re nowhere near that yet. We think we’re moving in the right direction. We’re trending that way.”
Taking a team into Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and its 82,112 capacity crowd is one of college football’s most harrowing experiences. The Sooners have manhandled most of their opponents at home, including 44 victories out of 47 games versus Big 12 opponents.
Many teams are defeated before they even enter the venue.
“If you think about it, sure,” said Kelly of the intimidation factor in Memorial Stadium. “Those numbers aren’t something that we bring up. But clearly, we know how good they are.”
Oklahoma’s average margin of victory at home against Big 12 teams since 1999 is an astonishing 27.7 points per game. Only three of those 44 victories have been by single digits. Twenty of those wins have been by at least four touchdowns. The three Big 12 losses at home have been by two, three and five points.
For the Irish to defeat the Sooners, they’ll have to run the ball well - which they’ve done each of the last three weeks vs. Miami, Stanford and BYU -- and turn red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. (The Irish have just three touchdowns in nine red-zone penetrations the last two weeks.) They’ll also have to contain the nation’s No. 3 kick return unit and the No. 6 punt return corps.
“We have to be better on third down throwing the football and we have to be better in the red zone,” Kelly said. “Those are areas of emphasis. If we’re better in those two areas, then our efficiency is going to jump up. I’m more interested in being more efficient in terms of our passing game.”
Notre Dame won’t get caught star-gazing at Oklahoma this weekend.
“Just focus on what you can do,” Kelly said. “If you start thinking about big picture and all those other factors, it takes you away from the job at hand.
“We’ve done a really good job of focusing on each other and focusing on their jobs,” Kelly said. “When they’ve focused just on their job - regardless of the time of the game, how much was on the clock, winning, losing - they don’t even pay attention to that stuff. You don’t even think about the scoreboard. Let the coaches do that.”
Kelly hopes to achieve what the Sooners have achieved at home.
“The hallmark of great programs is that consistency, the consistency that we saw (at Notre Dame) for a number of years that we haven’t seen,” Kelly said. “We want to be able to bring that back.
“That takes time and that takes a lot of winning, and that’s why there is so much pride and tradition in their program.”
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